US Open Qualifying
If you really ever thought you were a good golfer, think again, there are literally thousands and thousands of players who are better than you are-handicap or no handicap. There were a total of 10,187 applications to compete in US Open qualifying for about 45 spots tee it up at Los Angeles Country Club for the Championship at 9 US sites and 1 Canadian site. 645 players made it through sectional qualifying and now would play 36 holes to fill 45 available spots to qualify to play in the US Open field.
The field consisted of amateurs, club professionals, Korn Ferry and PGA Tour players. There were a number of seasoned and grizzled veterans including the 2009 US Open champion, Lucas Glover, Open Champion, Stewart Cink and veterans such as Kevin Streelman and David Leishman. Glover was crushed when he missed a two foot tap in putt in a playoff with several other players to miss qualifying in Ohio. Michael Brennan hit a miraculous bunker shot from an impossible position to qualify in Rockville, Maryland. The toughest part of this competition occurred in Springfield, Ohio where Alex Schaake battled Max Moldovan in a playoff that went 8 extra holes. Both players missed the green in the flickering daylight but Schaake bounced an incredible wedge shot out of the rough finding the back of the hole and releasing the ball to four feet. Max had a long bunker shot that was pretty good but he couldn’t convert the 15 foot putt for birdie leaving Schaake with a four footer for the spot, which he holed. Max can only hope that someone else drops out for some unknown so he can claim a spot. US Open qualifying is the great equalizer–outstanding amateur collegiate players, professionals all throw together competing for a chance at an entry to the granddaddy championship in all of golf.
Hovland Overtakes McCarthy
Muirfield Village was brutal in the final round. The course that Jack built was tougher than nails and Jack had to be smiling inwardly while being sympathetic to the players that were averaging 75 strokes on this final day. Rory McIlroy never recovered from the 7 that he made in the first round. McIlroy brought himself right back into contention in the next 36 holes but too many errant shots and missed putts in the final round did him in. Denny McCarthy jumped into the lead and held onto it as the field crept closer but it looked like pars on the way in would secure the victory. However, Victor Hovland knocked in a long putt on 17 for birdie to get to within 1 shot of McCarthy. Only Hovland had birdied 17 so this putt was a suspicious omen of what was to come.
McCarthy couldn’t close the deal as he missed the fairway on 18 and he was unable to get up and down out of the penal rough on 18. The playoff didn’t last long as McCarthy continued to be victimized by the 18th hole missing the fairway again in the playoff. Hovland had an improbable victory and his first PGA Tour victory on US soil.
Last but not least was Rose Zhang winning the first LPGA tournament she entered as a professional. Zhang was fresh from her latest amateur championship at Stanford at the NCAA Women’s Championships. Zhang was unflappable as she continually moved up the leader board on a difficult course in New Jersey with some nasty unseasonable weather. There’s not a lot to say about Zhang’s play–she is able to accept feast and famile seemingly equally and able to respond. She didn’t have her best stuff in the final round and missed a number of birdie opportunities that would have made the victory a lot easier. She bogied the final hole with another missed makable putt on the 18th forcing a playoff with Jennifer Kupcho. On the second playoff hole, Kupcho’s tee shot was at least 30 yards further than Rose giving her the advantage. Zhang was 180 yards out and knocked a hybrid club to five feet while Kupcho balooned her iron shot to a very long putt that could not be made. It’s been quite a month for Zhang–winning the NCAA Women’s Title with Stanford, finishing as the No. 1 Amateur and then winning her first LPGA event as professional.
The Merger of the PGA Tour and LIV Tour
The hot/cold war over the custody of professional golf is over. The professional tours are merging in what could be described as a huge surprise. The Saudis win–we have more money than you (PGA Tour) do–we win, you lose. It’s about the money–everything else is just BS. It seems to me that the Saudis were going to spend their way into oblivion and completely disrupt the professional world of golf through years of litigation and disrupting the sponsorship model of the PGA Tour. The timing of this announcement (there was no real good time) is still poor as it disrespects the game on the eve of the US Open next week in Los Angeles.
Down the line, it will be the responsibility of the stewards of the game to execute this merger successfully. In the intermediate period, it will be chaotic with many hurt feelings bruised egos and some questionable ethical and hypocritical behavior. For the players it is a sobering dose of reality that they are the pawn pieces in the chess board of a power structure that they can’t even begin or want to understand. The stewards of the game will be supportive–they have to be. Money, as usual, is the big winner. The world of golf is trying to digest what just happened but it was inevitable–the side with the most money wins every time.